Canadian “NGOs” Aid antiAristide Election Rhetoric
By Richard Sanders, editor,
Press for Conversion! and coordinator,
Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade.
(See also "Canadian “NGOs” Aid antiAristide Election Rhetoric.")
All the quasi-governmental Canadian agencies that took a stand on Haiti’s 2000 elections, sided with the anti-Aristide fringe parties that lost miserably in those legislative and presidential contests.
Even with backing from the world’s wealthiest governments, Haiti’s elite—using its almost complete control of the mass media—could not stop that country’s poor majority from giving Aristide and his Lavalas party another landslide victory in 2000.
Although it could not possibly win the elections, Haiti’s elite did manipulate debate within foreign "non-governmental organizations" (NGOs). By unfairly attacking the legitimacy of the elections, Canada’s government-funded NGOs undermined Aristide’s ability to govern. This was part of an intense destabiliza-tion campaign led by Haiti’s corporate elite and supported by a panoply of groups financed by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The stage was thus set to use the elections as a pretext to starve Aristide’s government of money and demand that he resign before the end of his five year mandate.
Although numerous articles published by this Montréal-based NGO stated that Haiti’s 2000 elections were illegitimate, there are no Alternatives’ critiques of the illegal ascent to power by the regime that was handpicked to replace Aristide and his elected government during the 2004 coup.
For example, Alternatives’ web-site has an interview with Susy Castor, of Haiti’s Center of Social Research and Economic Training for Development (CRESFED) that refers to the 2000 presidential contest as a "fraudulent election."1 CRESFED, which belonged to the CIDA-funded Group of 184 (G184), received $54,000 in CIDA funding.2
In 2005, during the illegal coup-installed dictatorship, two Alternatives’ articles stated that "less than 15%" of Haitians took part in the 2000 presidential elections. One of these articles, by Alternatives’ communications director and editor, François L’Écuyer, used this bogus "15%" statistic as if it were a matter of fact.3 Another Alternatives’ spokesperson, Pierre Beaudet, also refers to this fanciful figure. Neither of these prolific Alternatives’ writers provide references in their articles, let alone source this phoney pseudofact.
What’s more, Beaudet’s article states that the presidential elections of 2000 "were rigged to the extent that most of the opposition boycotted the futile exercise."4 He doesn’t explain that Aristide’s opposition saw the election as "futile" because they knew they did not have the slightest chance of winning. Even the U.S. government admitted that Aristide’s political opponents could not collectively win 12% of the vote.5 Neither did Beaudet mention the Gallop Poll that found only 4% of Haitians had trust in the anti-Aristide "Democratic Convergence."6 Nor does he explain how Aristide can be accused of "rigging" an election when it was Haiti’s pathetically small political opposition that boycotted the vote.
Another similarly partisan Alternatives article was written by Franklin Midy who said that one of the ways "Aristide had begun to monopolize power" was by "rigging the 2000 legislative elections."7 Midy does not mention that only eight of the more than 7,000 political seats decided in that election were ever called into question by the opposition. So, even without the eight seats in question, Aristide’s party won by a massive landslide.On the eve of the coup, Alternatives published a timeline of Haitian history describing the 2000 "legislative and presidential elections" as "marked by numerous irregularities." It said the government’s "legitimacy is strongly contested by the international community and the national opposition."8 By "international community," Alternatives must be referring to a handful of countries like the U.S., Canada and France, while by "national opposition" it must means that tiny faction in Haiti, dominated by its corporate elite, that were trounced in the elections.
Of the three Haitian groups that Alternatives invited to the 2007 Quebec Social Forum, two were members of the G184. The third was Groupe Médialternatif. Its delegate, Rene Colbert, is the editor of AlterPresse, the most complete online source of G184 propaganda. Colbert told author Yves Engler that there was no coup in 2004 because Aristide had not been elected in 2000.9
Concertation pour Haïti (CPH)
In February 2004, during violent attacks against Haiti’s elected government, Canada’s most virulently anti-Aristide network of NGOs,10 most of which received financial aid from CIDA, issued a statement called "Why Aristide should leave?"11 In this call for Aris-tide’s demise, which spoke highly of the G184, the CPH labelled his government a "regime of terror." Saying "Aris-tide is anti-democratic" and corrupt, the CPH asked rhetorically if he was "a legitimate president." Its answer hinged largely on a grossly exaggerated view of the 2000 elections, saying Aristide was:
"elected by less than 5% of the electorate, without the participation of opposition parties, in a context of un-resolved electoral irregularities."12
Such statements illustrate CPH’s alignment with the most extreme antiAristide elements in Haiti’s elite-led opposition.
Development and Peace (D&P)
The most excessive rhetoric used by a Canadian, CIDA-funded NGO, to twist the truth about the 2000 elections, occurred in March 2004 when hundreds were being killed after Haiti’s coup. Speaking for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Marthe Lapierre addressed the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, saying: "Was the Aristide regime a democracy or a dictatorship? For me, the answer is clear: it was a dictatorship." To explain, she outrageously stated:
"The OAS did not recognize the results of those parliamentary elections in May of 2000, or at least partly questioned them.... Then the opposition decided to boycott the presidential elections. It didn’t even take part. Also, only 5 per cent of the population actually voted.
....[T]his government was not elected appropriately, because the results are questionable.... [I]t is clear that we’re talking about a dictatorship in the case of Aristide. Indeed, that is how all of our partners in Haiti describe the regime."13
Two years later, a nuanced D&P report stood by this biased account:
"Although Aristide’s Fanmi Lav-alas had won many of the seats in the legislative elections of May 2000, the party’s desire for complete control and its refusal to tolerate any opposition led it to manoeuvre an irregular vote count of the Senate results.... [T]he opposition parties formed the Democratic Convergence coalition and boycotted the December 2000 presidential elections. In the absence of any genuine political contest...these elections were marked by a very low turnout. After the elections...Aristide was declared winner with 92% of the vote."14
This report later states that
"in the case of Aristide, it can be argued that he did not come to power for his second mandate [in 2000] in a democratic manner, as the elections were held in a climate of fear, with a low voter turnout and with an opposition boycott making the results a foregone conclusion."15
In another report, D&P refers to "the electoral fraud" of 2000.16
D&P also made blanket statements about Haitian history displaying its utter contempt for the 2000 election:
"In the last 50 years, if exception is made of short periods in 1991 and in 1994–1997, the Haitian people have never experienced democracy."
D&P then calls Aristide’s government
"a regime which, although definitely totalitarian, proclaimed itself to be a ‘popular’ or grassroots government."17
D&P created a new concept of "democracy" to rationalize opposition to Aristide’s elected government. D&P thus speaks of the "notion" of electoral democracy saying that while it
"supports the notion of the legitimacy of an elected president, it also believes that democracy cannot be restricted to coming to power in a democratic manner, but is also about the democratic exercise of power."18
Along these lines, D&P spoke, not long before the 2004 coup, of the "Need to Rethink Governance" saying:
"The Aristide regime is sharply criticized and has practically no legitimacy. Still, there is no political alternative on the horizon.19
The D&P message here is self-contradictory. On one hand it discounts the results of the 2000 election saying Aris-tide’s "regime" "has practically no legitimacy," while simultaneously it acknowledges that a "political alternative" to Aristide is nonexistent. This exemplifies what George Orwell called "dou-blethink," namely the ability to hold:
"two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously .... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient."20
Two months before the 2004 coup, when Haiti’s elected government was under attack at home and abroad, this Catholic missionary group was unhappy with Canada’s efforts to weaken Aristide. EMI criticised the Organization of American States and Canada’s government saying they "continue to grant President Aristide and his government a legitimacy that must be questioned."21 Referring to "reported irregularities during parliamentary elections in May 2000," EMI said "the legitimacy of the current government is still questioned."22
In 2001, the Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL) issued a report on Haiti financed by CIDA and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The quasi-governmental agency’s scorn for democracy is discernable between the lines of its report:
"It was hoped that the 2000 elections would symbolize a new political beginning in Haiti. Unfortunately, the electoral victories of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Lavalas Family party have only served to perpetuate the political crisis."23
In reality, it was not the "electoral victories" of Aristide and Lavalas that perpetuated Haiti’s crisis. The crisis continued because the election’s losers refused to concede defeat. Although they could not challenge Aris-tide at the polls, their profound sense of entitlement demanded a share in political power and a role in government. Their foreign backers (like the U.S., France and Canada) concurred.
FOCAL also gave credence to the opposition’s bogus claims of an incredibly small voter turnout, saying:
"Aristide’s legitimacy was disputed. The [Provisional Electoral Council] CEP’s report of a 60% voter turnout was strongly rejected by opposition groups who put the number closer to 20%, with some claiming that only 5% of eligible voters actually participated. Many foreign journalists and diplomats estimated a participation rate of no more than 10%."24
Rights & Democracy (R&D)
R&D is a government agency masquerading as an NGO. It joined what it called "an NGO delegation" "[w]orking with the Organization of American States electoral observation mission" to monitor Haiti’s legislative elections in 2000. Upon their return, this government-funded delegation of Canada’s most virulently anti-Aristide network—Concertation pour Haïti (CPH)—"declared the vote acceptable according to international election norms."25
Later, R&D and CPH changed their spin on the 2000 elections. In 2001, R&D signed a statement saying that
"Aristide’s  election came amidst widespread doubts about his own and the Préval government’s commitment to democracy, political disputes over earlier parliamentary elections, low voter turnout, virtually no competing candidacy, and an international community disinclined to support the new Haitian leaders."26
In a list of incidents that supposedly "dealt a severe blow to the observance of civil and political rights in Haiti," "preceding the presidential vote," this statement included "manipulation of the May 2000 vote for parliament."
In a report one month before the 2004 coup, R&D included an extremely partisan statement that seemed to fault the 2000 elections for Haiti’s crisis:
"Since the first round of legislative elections in May 2000, whose results—which strongly favoured the Fanmi Lavalas party—were contested by the political opposition and foreign observers...., Haiti has been bogged down in an institution-al crisis.... Préval’s decision to continue with the second round of elections despite the boycott announced by Convergence démocratique, a coalition of some fifteen opposition parties, and the resignation of the President of the Provisional Electoral Council...led to Fanmi Lavalas gaining absolute control over the Parliament and the election of Jean-Bertrand Aristide as Head of State.... Since then, a large portion of Haitian society has been contesting the legitimacy of the governing power and is calling for new elections."27
This R&D statement criticises Preval’s "decision" to hold the presidential elections and seems to fault Lavalas for having such mass support. And, if such a "large portion of Haitian society" really did contest Aristide’s government, why couldn’t they win the elections?
R&D’s anti-democratic perspective can also be found on their website which also seems to blame Haiti’s crisis on Lavalas’ 2000 electoral victories. R&D even suggested that Aristide’s kidnapping and the 2004 coup were the natural result of those elections:
"Political instability in Haiti has prevailed since the highly controversial legislative and local elections of May 2000, whose results were contested. This crisis culminated on February 29, 2004, with the exile of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide."28
"Aristide became the FL (Fanmi Lavalas) party candidate for president in the November 2000 elections. Not surprising, he won. But capturing 91.8% of the vote was too incredulous [sic] for opposing candidates to believe. As a result, most opposition parties refused to confirm Aristide as president. Nor has the opposition recognized the legitimacy of the May 2000 and July 2002 parliamentary elections in which FL candidates won 72 of 83 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 26 of 27 in the Senate. The second Aristide presidency has been just as chaotic and violent as Preval’s, with Haitians having lost confidence in the man once revered by the poor."29
Like so many of the other statements by CIDA-funded "NGOs" about Haiti’s 2000 elections, the above comment reveals a major contradiction in logical thinking. If so many Haitian’s had indeed lost confidence in Aristide and his Lavalas party, why were hey always empowered in landslide elections? Clearly, most poor Haitians continued to overwhelmingly support Aristide and his government, even when bitterly opposed by Haiti’s powerful elite and their foreign supporters.
1. Susy Castor, "Le pays n’est pas à recon-struire, mais à construire," June 25, 2005.
2. "CIDA-Funded G184 Member Groups," Press for Conversion! Sept. 2007, p.39.
3. François L’Écuyer, "Le débat qui divise la gauche," October 17, 2005.
4. Pierre Beaudet, "Haiti, the struggle continues," October 3, 2005.
5. Tom Reeves, "Still up against the death plan in Haiti," Dollars and Sense, September/October 2003, p.40.
6. Robert Maguire, "Haiti’s political gridlock," Journal of Haitian Studies, Fall 2002, p.34.
7. Franklin Midy, "La marche vers la démocratie en Haïti," April 5, 2006.
8. "Repères: Haïti," January 29, 2004."
9. Yves Engler, "NGOs and Imperialism," September 2, 2007.
10. "Roundtable on Haiti," Press for Conversion! May 2008. pp.48-49.
11. "Pourquoi Aristide doit-il partir?" February 16, 2004
13. SCFAIT hearing, March 25, 2004.
14. Background Paper on Haiti Addressing the Issue of the Departure of Former Pres. J.-B. Aristide, March 2006.
16. Program of Support for Civil Society in Latin Americawww.devp.org/devpme/documents/eng/pdf/ProgramLatinAmerica_ENG.pdf
17. 2006-2011 Program, p.123
18. Background Paper on Haiti, Op. Cit.
19. Support for the Processes of Democratization, November 2003.
20. George Orwell, 1984, 1949, p.220.
21. "Entraide Missionnaire réclame une position ferme du Canada vis-à-vis d’Haiti," December 12, 2003.
23. "Haiti after 2000 Elections," June 2001.
25. Libertas, Summer 2000.
26. Statement, International Human Rights Organizations on Haiti, Feb. 5, 2001.
27. "A Bitter Bicentennial," January 2004.
28. Strengthening the Participation of Haitian Civil Society in Transition toward Democracy
29. "An ounce of prevention," Policy Briefing, May 2004.
The above article is from Press for Conversion! magazine, Issue
#63 (November 2008)
Previous issues of this
Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade publication include:
#62 "Putting the Aid in Aiding and Abetting:
CIDA's Agents of Regime Change in Haiti's 2004 Coup"
#61 "CIDA's Key Role in Haiti's 2004 Coup d’état:
Funding Regime Change, Dictatorship and Human Rights Atrocities, one Haitian 'NGO' at a Time"
#60 "A Very Canadian Coup d’état in Haiti:
The Top 10 Ways that Canada’s Government helped the 2004 Coup and its Reign of Terror"
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